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Imagine That, Inc

Dealing With Negative Online Reviews: The Good, the bad and the Ugly

Negative online reviews can be the death of any business as online business dealings are no longer a luxury, but a necessity in today’s digital marketing age. More and more, connected customers are researching their purchases online and therefore publicly complaining about the business dealings that ultimately didn’t go their way. The reality is, you can do everything right and yet still receive a negative review. It all depends on the customer’s expectations; they are either met or they're not. So, what do you do about these awfully public and negative reviews? How do you handle them? Well, there are a number of ways that small business owners can not only minimize the influence of these reviews, but use them to your advantage. The following are some helpful tips on how to do just that.

Be Proactive From the Start

The easiest and most obvious method to preventing negative reviews is to make sure that your customers aren’t disgruntled enough to post them in the first place. However, this is much easier said than done as it’s not always possible to please every client. Things to keep in mind; (1) Your business is not right for everyone, (2) Your business can’t be great for everyone, (3) In order to be the best solution for someone, your product must be the wrong solution for someone else and (4) A bad review often comes from a customer simply discovering that your product is not the right fit for them. So, by just being aware that these negative reviews are going to eventually pop up, you can monitor your social media channels to spot negative commentary or even set up online reputation monitoring tools (Google Alerts, Social Mention) to email you when a mention of your business appears anywhere online. Because bad reviews are inevitable, it’s important to remember not to take them personally. As your business grows, so will the chances of seeing more and more unsavory reviews. Head of Marketing at Groove, Len Markidan, says, “If you have 100 reviews, and five of them are bad, and you let those five get to you, then how are you going to deal with 50 bad reviews out of 1,000, or 500 bad reviews out of 10,000?”

So, what do you do about these unavoidable commentaries about your business?

Mitigate the Damage

Most, if not all, review sites will not take down negative reviews for you unless you can prove that it was a competitor trying to bash you or something along those lines. You actually don’t want to have these removed anyway, as a squeaky clean positive review arsenal is unnatural and could be a sort of red flag to a potential customer. What you do want to do is mitigate the damage in a couple of ways:

1. Contact the review site – You could reach out to the review site and ask for help, but as I just mentioned most sites will not remove the review unless there are mitigating circumstances. Deanna Yick, spokesperson for Google Places explains, “Reviews are a forum for users to share both positive and negative opinions. We do not arbitrate disputes and more often than not, we leave the review up.” But, rest assured that there are other steps you can take.

2. Respond Promptly – Responding to a negative review in a timely manner shows the customer that you both care about and value their opinion.

3. Drown them Out – So, instead of trying to get the reviews removed, why not try and drown them out by solving the underlying problem and focus on getting more positive reviews. Every positive review has the potential to take the sting out of a negative one.

4. Join the Party – While maintaining a professional and polite tone, you can and should respond to each of the undesirable reviews publicly. You can choose to respond privately, but that will not allow for potential new customers to hear your side of the story. You can apologize, offer to make up for the reason for the bad review or just respond with your thanks for the honest review. But, it’s crucial to keep a cool head and try and see things from the customer’s point of view. Whatever you decide to do, just know that online reviews are not set in stone and how you choose to respond could make the difference in whether or not they choose to change the review from one star to five stars. Markidan suggests, “Treat the upset customer just as you would an upset customer who hadn’t spoken up online; with empathy, compassion and a genuine commitment to making things right.”

5. Don’t Defend Yourself – As already mentioned, you do want to respond publicly, but don’t get defensive and list all the reasons why the upset customer is wrong. Use the tips in #3 above to see how to properly respond. Publicly acknowledge you’ve made a mistake (even if you don’t feel you have), resist arguing and offer to mend the situation in whatever manner possible. Kyle Willis, CEO of Seattle’s No to the Quo offers up his insight, “When a customer takes us up on the offer (to mend the situation), it often results in them changing their review – without us asking them to. If they don’t accept the offer, then it still serves as a sign of goodwill and shows potential customers looking at reviews that the negative experience was an outlier, not the regular way we conduct business.”

Use Negative Reviews to Your Advantage

There is a silver lining to all of this negative stuff – every negative review serves as a chance to improve your service. Think of it this way … a bad review from a good customer is a generous gift that can help you make great changes, and ultimately make more and more customers happy in the long run. Treat these unpleasant reviews as an opportunity for your business to shine. Stuff happens and mistakes are made. It’s part of life. But, negative reviews hand you an opportunity to recover from the mistake, and in turn, build a stronger relationship with the customer than you had previously. After all, good customer service isn’t about eliminating mistakes completely, it’s about leveraging that opportunity to build a deeper relationship with that customer.

So, what do you take from all of this? There is a lot of information here to absorb all at once, but if you take one important thing away from this reading it’s that you have to deal with bad reviews, you can’t just ignore them. Using the aforementioned advice, fortunately for you, there are a number of ways that small-business owners can minimize the influence of negative reviews and encourage satisfied customers to join the digital conversation.

This blog merely scratches the surface, so if you would like to have a more in-depth conversation about dealing with negative online reviews, we would be happy to schedule a time to discuss how this process works with you and your business. Contact us today for a free consultation.